Archive for December, 2007
Web search is a whole lot easier than thumbing through a household copy of The Merck Manual when you’re trying to find out what you’re sick with. A simple search based on symptoms might steer you the right way, but several medical Web services have gone the route of attempting to emulate the kinds of questions you’d get when visiting a doctor’s office. One of them, called MEDgle has quietly been offering up a symptom-based medical search tool for the last year.
The crux of MEDgle is the search tool, which either lets users type in what’s wrong with them, or pick it out piece by piece by clicking on affected body parts or general symptoms. There are also tabs to hone down your search by drugs, procedures, and health care providers. The goal is to give you a list of conditions, along with pointing you the right way to places to get them checked out. What makes it interesting is that some of the results you get are actually hand-picked by physicians working with the service. Similar to the idea behind Mahalo, the hope is that you can get some guided search recommendations alongside the standard Web hits that have been tailored to the information you’ve provided on sex, age,
and body type.
What makes MEDgle worth checking out is the results system. It’ll first break down possible afflictions or conditions, then let you mouse over to get a quick overview of what it is. Each one is also rated on a five-star scale, which is tied in to the symptoms you’ve listed; the higher number of symptoms that match up to that condition, the higher the star count. You can then drill down by clicking on the condition, which will pull up the Web results, along with Snap-powered previews of each site.
While MEDgle lacks some of the polish and visual flair of WebMD, it’s dead simple to use, and does a fair amount of hand-holding along the way, which I think novice users will enjoy. Until Google rolls out its own health search service and records platform, sites like these are a great place to bookmark for the next time you feel like doing a little research on what ails you without having to phone or visit your medical provider.
Regardless of how Tablet PCs have actually done in the marketplace, Microsoft has always been a staunch proponent of touch interfaces, and it looks like the next version of Windows, currently under the codename Windows 7, will bundle in multi-touch features like those found in the iPhone and Microsoft’s own Surface. The news comes from Microsoft engineer Hilton Locke, who blogged about Dell’s multi-touch capable (but not enabled) Latitude XT earlier today, and added, "if you are impressed by the ‘touch features’ in the iPhone, you’ll be blown away by what’s coming in Windows 7." Locke went on to imply that it’s been challenging selling touch to manufacturers, saying "Now if only we could convince more OEMs that Windows Touch Technology is going to drive their sales." That’s a surprise to us — that Big Ass Table demo pretty much sells itself, don’t you think?
Are you a Facebook user who also uses Microsoft Outlook? Have you ever wished that you could have your Outlook calendar update from your Facebook events and birthday lists? Now, you can! With fbCal, you’ll be able to remember you Facebook friends’ birthdays and all the events you’ve been invited to. In under a minute, you’ll have a Facebook calendar you can subscribe to in Outlook or a downloadable copy you can import into Outlook. fbCal will actually generate two different types of calendars – one for birthdays and one for events – and each is available as a subscription or a download. Subscription calendars get updated whenever you refresh your calendar after there was a change in your Facebook friends or events. Download calendars are only accurate up to when you last downloaded the calendar. All the calendars made by fbCal are iCalendar (.ics) format.
Never content with leaving their gimmicky products as is, the perfectionists over at Brando are prepping yet a third iteration of the wildly-popular USB missile launcher, with the new model featuring an upgrade to wireless control. Cubicle commandos now have over a 15-foot range from their workstations to wage this geekiest form of warfare, thanks to a two-part system that connects transmitter and launcher with a proprietary RF signal. If you happen to work in the type of environment that condones this sort of silly behavior, or just want to go out with a bang, the set can be yours for $45 starting on the 20th.
Install Windows Vista SP1 RC through Windows Update!
Windows Vista Service Pack 1 RC is available through Windows Update. Experience the WU based Vista SP1 installation by following 4 simple steps. If want the latest and greatest. If your a bigBrains. Download Vista SP1 RC.
Microsoft is stepping closer to providing anywhere access to Office files. The free Office Live Workspace (more here), which lets people share work in Word, Excel and PowerPoint online, is expanding today to invite more beta testers.
You can sign up to try the work in progress at OfficeLive.com, although access may not be immediate. A final version is set for next spring.
When Office 2007 debuted nearly a year ago, it seemed curious that Microsoft offered no easy, one-click option for accessing work from the Web. Meanwhile, Zoho built an add-in for Office 2007, as Google Docs & Spreadsheets and other tools allowed people to share as well as compose work within a browser.
The free, ad-supported Office Live Workspace is a bridge to Office software, not a browser-based replica. Workspace synchronizes changes made to files stored both on a desktop and at Office Live’s servers, including Outlook contacts and events. It works with Windows XP SP2, 2003 Server, or Vista with Internet Explorer 6 and Firefox 2 or higher (required for users of Mac OS 10.2 and up).
With the Office Live Add-In installed, you can reach your online Workspaces within Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.
The online tools preview Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files as well as PDFs, PNGs, and JPGs. Workspace is meant to work in tandem with Word, Excel and PowerPoint XP, 2003, or 2007 running locally on a PC. You can preview, not edit, documents from a browser. Web Notes, on the other hand, do enable the creation and formatting of small text documents online.
Office Live Workspace emphasizes collaboration rather than composition. To share documents with other people, you can send them a secure URL without requiring them to sign in with a Windows Live ID. Everyone with access to the workspace can make and view each others’ comments.
Those invited for editing can make changes to the work, as long as they have Word, Excel, and PowerPoint on their hard drive. Office Live Workspace handily preserves the Track Changes feature from Office apps while also keeping five histories of a file. And the Share View screen allows control of another user’s PC.
Another desktop component of this service is the Office Live Add-In for Microsoft Office. This is a quick download, although you’ll have to restart the system afterward. Once it’s installed, a Save to Office Live option will appear under the Office button within Word, Excel, or PowerPoint, with the subsequent dialog box showing your available workspaces.
Snag yourself a free copy of Windows Vista Ultimate, Office 2007, or Microsoft Money Plus before December 31st by participating in Microsoft’s Windows Feedback Program. Here’s the catch: you must agree to letting MS peer over your shoulder and watch how you use your computer for three months with automated feedback software, and/or answer survey questions about your computer use, so the ‘soft can help make their ‘ware a bit better. Your privacy for software that retails for up to $400 might not sound like a good deal to some. But, if you opt for the survey feedback, you control how you answer the questions (though it’ll be more work than the automated program.)
Finding yourself unhealthily frustrated by that annoying "three-play rule" still included in the latest firmware update for the Zune? Fret not, as a solution easier than easy has been discovered. Apparently, users can simply accept a shared track, go into Windows and switch the genre to "Podcast," and play the tune over as many times as they’d like. Granted, any files which this trick is used for will show up in the Podcast section, but hey, you can’t get everything, right?
EverNote for Windows Mobile: Create & Synchronize Audio, Voice, Image & Ink Notes on PPC/Smartphone to PC
EverNote has released a technical preview of a new application for Windows Mobile Pocket PCs and Smartphones that allows you to capture images as notes, create new text or ink notes, record audible voice notes, synchronize all such notes with your desktop computer and search them on your mobile device.
Key features of this application include:
+ Create new text or ink notes: Tap with the keypad on Smartphone or write with your stylus on Pocket PC
+ Take snapshot notes: Take snapshots with your mobile device’s camera and save the images as notes
+ Record audio notes: Record an audio note and play it back whenever you like
+ Access notes anytime: Your notes are stored locally on the mobile device and can be accessed anytime
+ Search all notes: Search through ink or image text notes on your mobile device after converting it with EverNote’s desktop counterpart’s advanced image and text recognition.[previous coverage here]
Download EverNotes for Windows Mobile Pocket PC and Smartphone from here.
TiVo chop shop WeaKnees is offering the biggest Series 3 TiVo they can muster. Cramming a 1TB drive internally along with an external 1TB eSATA, they’re offering ready-to-run TiVos with a whopping 2TB of storage space, or enough for 292 hours of HD programming. But when you have enough storage for well over 100 HD movies, it’s gonna cost you.
WeaKnees is asking $1,599 for the device, and that’s after the $200 mail in rebate. And while we can appreciate the modding they’ve done to slip in the extra internal terabyte drive, that eSATA requires all of 1 minute of user installation.
You can skip using the Start Menu, desktop icons, or Windows Explorer and just use Launchy instead. Launchy is a open-source keystroke launcher for Windows XP (BTW: you can hit the start button and type app names in Vista to launch apps.) The app indexes your Start Menu programs and files so you can launch any application, document, files, folder, or bookmark with just a few keystrokes. When Launchy is running, it hides in the background, but you can bring it up by holding down “Alt” and hitting the spacebar. You then type in a few letters of the program or file you want and hit “Enter” when Launchy finds it. You can leave Launchy visible or hit “Alt” and spacebar again to re-hide it. The app itself is completely skinnable, and there is a gallery of custom skins for you to choose from.
I tend to change my desktop wallpaper on a fairly regular basis, so when I discovered this Vista sidebar gadget that can do it for me, I was thrilled. The Desktop Wallpaper gadget is similar to the Slide Show gadget, except that it allows you to change your wallpaper in designated intervals. What’s cool about it is that it allows for a couple more wallpaper options than Vista supports by default, like “crop to fit screen” and “maintain aspect ratio.” You can either have the slide show feature playing or you can set that option to “preview next wallpaper” instead. The gadget’s author has created other great gadgets, including the Polaroid gadget which lets you place photos on your desktop, rotate them, and give them captions. He is also working on version 2 of the Desktop gadget, which would bring video to the desktop as well, like DreamScene does.
Those of you clamoring for a public beta of Vista SP1 Release Candidate can spend your weekend brushing up on what all is going to change when that download finally goes live. Available now on Microsoft’s website is a sizable document outlining “notable changes” in the forthcoming update, which includes improvements in application compatibility, hardware ecosystem support, reliability, performance / power consumption, security, desktop administration, support for new technologies / standards and interoperability. If we tried to even hit the highlights, all but the most vigilant would probably doze off before they could scroll down to the next post, so we’ll just advise the curious to hit the links below and cancel every plan you had for the next 30 or so hours.
You waited, and waited for it, so we’re finally bringing it to you! Check out our hands-on video of Windows Mobile 6.1, where we take you through all the new features we’ve found so far. In case you forgot them, we’ve got ‘em below!
- Copy / Paste (finally!)
- Domain Enroll in Settings (Enrolling in a domain will connect your device with company resources.)
- New home screen (pan left and right to check out missed calls, notifications like email, sms, etc.)
- Change Master Security Code
- Added text input settings
- Recent Programs when pressing Start menu
- Threaded SMS!
- When you compose an email, or SMS, and start typing the name of the contact in the "To:" field, the contact names finally pop up like Windows Mobile Professional!
- Internet Explorer now lets you define a homepage, and also zoom in and out using a nice and clean interface
- Task Manager now shows CPU usage as a whole, and also lists it by process
- Internet Explorer offers 6 zoom modes and copy / paste functionality
- IE also uses a new font, which looks worlds better
- ActiveSync will now try to automatically configure your Exchange settings once you enter an email address
- Wi-Fi indicator in the status bar, just as in Windows Mobile Professional
- New "Vista" home screen and theme
P.S. For anyone thinking on holding off on an AT&T Q9 because of the Wi-Fi version coming, remember that this device is running a non-AT&T OS, and although it is AT&T-branded hardware, it doesn’t mean AT&T has actually picked it up, nor do we have any launch indication or supposed release timeframe.
Today Asus rolled out the world’s first EN8800GT graphics card with 1GB of Qimonda memory. The card is designed to provide optimum DirectX 10 gaming and multimedia playback performance even at the highest resolutions and quality settings. The unit also utilizes an integrated SmartDoctor feature, allowing users to overclock the Shader Clock for performance gains that they claim can exceed 10%.
ASUS also noted that a new Glaciator fan / heatsink hybrid keeps the GPU running at temperatures that are up to 7ºC cooler. Pricing details have not been made available, but you can expect to see the at card on store shelves by the end of December
Microsoft’s Live Labs, a standalone product research group, released on Wednesday Volta (download it from CNET Download.com), a development tool designed to make it easier to partition an application’s component pieces across a network.
The problem that Microsoft researchers are trying to address is the difficulty of deciding which part of the application runs under which tier–either the client or server.
Typically, developers need to write code to handle the communication between those tiers. And they need to decide during development on how to best architect their applications for optimal performance.
With Volta, developers can make “irreversible decisions as late as possible,” said Alex Daley, group product manager for Microsoft Live Labs.
The software, which is an add-in to Visual Studio 2008, lets developers write client-side code and then assign with annotations which code runs where, he explained.
Volta is written using Microsoft Intermediate Language (MSIL) which means that people familiar with Visual Studio languages, including Visual Basic and C#, can work with it. It also is integrated with tools in Visual Studio, including the debugger, and can make applications for Internet Explorer or Firefox.
Volta hasn’t been integrated into Microsoft product plans yet, but it stands to have a major impact on how they design tools, Daley said.
“This kind of idea–where we can share a single code base across client server and manage the complexity of communicating between them–is pretty new and has big implications on how we build tools,” he said.
Yahoo is set to release a preview of Yahoo Messenger for Vista on Thursday.
It’s just a preview, or a very early version, so it doesn’t have all the features other versions of Yahoo Messenger do, such as voice, Webcam, chat rooms, text messaging to mobile phones, easy photo sharing and conferencing. Those features will come later.
What it does have is a new interface, and it lets you organize conversations into tabs and drag and drop tabs out to create a new window. You can also keep favorite contacts by dragging them into the Windows Sidebar gadget, send enhanced emoticons, change the color of IM windows, adjust the display size of the contacts, arrange your contact list into multiple columns, and send files as large as 2 gigabytes.
“We know it’s been a long wait for Yahoo Messenger for Vista and we can’t thank you enough for your patience,” says Josh Jacobson, senior product manager for Yahoo Messenger for Vista.
Yahoo offers preview for Yahoo Messenger for Vista users.
You spend a whole lot of time each day moving, copying, trashing, browsing, and otherwise fiddling with all the files stored on your PC, and you should have the most efficient power tools to get those jobs done. Windows Explorer and its weak army of file manipulation functions just doesn’t cut the mustard for people with lots of data and only a little time, but several free utilities can help out. So today we present our top 10 free Windows file manipulation utilities for managing your important data.
Live Documents, the startup founded by Hotmail co-founder Sabeer Bhatia that said it was going to war with Microsoft with its online Office suite wasn’t kidding, with screenshots showing that the service is a nearly perfect clone of Microsoft Office.
Digital Inspiration was the first to find screenshots of the yet to be released Microsoft Office killer, and if it wasn’t for the Live Documents bar at the top of each shot you’d swear you were looking at Office 2007; soo much so that I’m at least a little bit skeptical on the scoop; I’m not saying that they are not real, but it wouldn’t be hard to mock up shots like this.
Presuming the shots are real the question then becomes whether the service is legal. Other sites have previously suggested (not in this case) that layouts can not be copyrighted, but I’m sure once Microsoft sees a complete clone of their Office package they’ll be wanting to test this theory in Court.
See our previous coverage here.
Update: as pointed out by commenter’s a full range of screenshots are now available on the Live Documents site.
Plug the Logitec LDT-1S30X4U into the USB port of your PC and you will be able to watch two TV shows at the same time. Connect a second one, thanks to its double USB, (see below, along with a screen grab) and you get to watch four shows. All sorts of features make the LDT-1S30X4U worth a closer look, however.
As well as recording programs, you can use the TimeShift function, which lets you watch the same show that you are recording, data broadcast and export videos to mobile devices. All you need for it to work is a 3GHz P4 or higher, says Logitec, and 256 MB of memory.Costing 16,800¥ ($153) the Logitec LDT-1S30X4U will be out in Japan next month.
Hulu, the joint online video venture between NBC and News Corp, has given private beta testers a sneak peak at the high definition video that should soon be available on the net more ubiquitously now that Flash supports the H.264 video codec.
Hulu currently provides only nine trailers in high definition as a sampler, including ones for Jumper, 27 Dresses, Hitman, American Gangster, and Definitely, Maybe. Playback requires a connection of 2,400 kbps or higher, Flash Player 188.8.131.52, and a fast computer (at least 3 GHz for PCs and 1.83 GHz for Macs).
The quality of these samples is certainly impressive. Full-screen mode looks particularly sharper with H.264 than with the current video quality offered by Hulu for the bulk of this collection. However, the video does stagger more often as it struggles to buffer in time. Of course, you can pause the video and let things preload if you have a slow connection. The screenshot below shows what high definition video on Hulu looks like for me in full-screen (unfortunately, embedding has been turned off for these samples).
No word yet on when the rest of Hulu’s collection might become available in high definition. Perhaps we should all email them demanding “I want my HD PC.”
As we’ve mentioned before, announcements like these should have competitors like Joost worried because much more high definition video will eventually find its way into the browser and not require downloadable clients or BitTorrent.
The Xbox 360 supports DivX and XviD as of today, which may make some of you with big file collections (like us) as giddy as a kid in store with puppies made of candy. We threw our entire collection of movies, TV shows and random clips at it and found that the 360 can play back pretty much anything. Here are some notes.
You can play files off of a CD/DVD. This feature wasn’t listed on the Xbox Team’s website as one of the supported locations for playing back content, but this is fantastic for homes that have wireless networks (or no network at all). In fact, reading off a disc is probably the best way to ensure your movie won’t cut out in the middle due to network congestion (unlikely) or someone turning off the computer accidentally (fairly likely).
It supports almost all files. It played back all TV shows we threw at it, including My Name is Earl, 30 Rock, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Battlestar Galactica, and The Venture Bros.. Most of these, and most TV downloaded TV shows, are encoded in XviD format. As for DivX, that’s supported back to version 5.0, but it’s unlikely that you’re going to find any DivX 3 or DivX 4 online, unless you’re talking about old files you’ve saved for a couple years.
AC3 Audio is supported. Nice! AC3 support was added in the Spring Update, but it’s nice to see it working with DivX/XviD. Too bad it’s not 5.1 though.
It supports Windows Home Server as well. Along with USB drives and WMP11 streaming, you can also stream DivX/XviD from Windows Home Server too. It makes sense to store all your videos on here, since videos are big and WHS has a lot of room. QED.
Video Stretching is kind of weird. The Xbox will try and auto-fit your video to the screen when it starts playing, but it gets confused easily with different video dimensions. You’ll want to manually change the playback mode to either letterbox or stretched, depending on what kind of content (widescreen, fullscreen, PAL) you’re playing back.
You can skip through a video with the bumpers. RB and LB let you skip forward and back through the movie, but might not be granular enough to get to the place you want to be. You’ll have to use the trigger buttons to FF or RW.
It’s fast. If your network connection is fast enough (my network is Gigabit Ethernet enabled, which isn’t a huge deal since the 360 is only 10/100), the video should play back without a hitch. It’s quite nice to be able to play back stuff on your 360, in HD, without having to transcode it into WMV first.
It doesn’t work in Windows Media Center Extender. You’re going to have to kick out of WMC and back to the dashboard in order to play your videos. Annoying for people who like to switch between live TV and downloaded content.
It’s not entirely perfect. It’s 90% of the way there, but 5.1 AC3 support, improved handling of different video dimensions, better playback controls and Windows Media Center Extender support will make this the perfect DivX/Xvid implementation.
Only 10 of these gold-colored Zune 2s will be sold, in both 80 and 8GB sizes. Microsoft teamed up with the Goods to make these screen printed designs. I like the cross pattern. They’re available next Saturday, in Seattle, if you feel the need to splurge. (No price listed but "Gold" plus "Limited Edition" plus "one of ten" plus made in collaboration with a company called "Goods" equals expensive.) Whether or not this design or Zune is something you’re interested in, you have to admit Microsoft’s customization program has been destroying the iPod’s offerings. [IHaveAZune via GotZune]
We’ve been hearing quite a bit about next week’s Fall Dashboard Update for the 360, but Microsoft’s finally ready to spill all of the beans. Obviously, the biggest update is the "Xbox Originals" downloadable Xbox games, but other improvements include enhanced online profiles, increased social networking, beefed up parental controls, improved menus, and our personal favorite: DivX support. As stated before, Xbox Original games, like Halo 1 and Fable, will be going for 1200 MS points (about $15), which is roughly comparable with your local game store’s bargain bin. Also on the fiscal side of things, certain titles on Xbox Live Arcade are getting permanent price drops, akin to "Platinum Hits" of retail titles. As for DivX, Microsoft was a little vague when speaking with Joystiq about it, but it sounds like XviD is in play as well, which is just double fun. It’s all hitting as a free download on December 4th, starting at 2AM PST.
So this weird Motorola Q9 that Boy Genius Report came across is turning into quite a gold mine. First it revealed AT&T’s apparent intention to let its guard down just a tad and start bringing more devices into the WiFi fold — despite the obvious risk to data revenue — and now it turns out that she’s dressed to the nines with none other than Windows Mobile 6.1. A fleeting glance at most of the screens doesn’t indicate any obvious changes from 6 (it is a .1 release, after all), but the devil’s in the details: goodies like threaded SMS (Yahtzee!) and cut-and-freaking-paste on Standard (double Yahtzee!) alone should make it a worthwhile upgrade. ‘Course, it’s up to the carriers and manufacturers as usual to ultimately decide whether to push updates to existing devices, but it would be pure, unadulterated torture if the lion’s share of devices didn’t see official releases. Seriously, we’d cry.